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    Karlheinz Stockhausen – Helicopter String Quartet

    Karlheinz Stockhausen - Helicopter String Quartet

    “Dedicated to all astronauts,” the Helicopter String Quartet was inspired by a couple of whimsical dreams German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) had about classical musicians flying, and a completely liberated version of himself soaring free above a genteel, tuxedo-choked society. When the Salzburg Festival comissioned a new work in 1991 as a part of Stockhausen’s opera cycle Mittwoch from Licht, what else could he do, other than compose a piece that literally flew away?

    By 1995, the work was completed and ready for its world premiere by the Arditti String Quartet, consisting of violinists Irvine Arditti and Graeme Jennings, violist Garth Knox and cellist Rohan de Saram. Inside one of four cramped helicopters–each containing a recording engineer and a video camera–a musician furiously sawed away on his instrument as they slowly circled above Amsterdam. Back in the concert hall, the composer mixed the sounds of the four players together with the noise of the helicopter rotors into a strange, hovering, glissing entity that soared and dived as effortlessly as an albatross in bright, sunlit skies. The audience was also treated to a live video feed from the helicopters displayed on a Jumbotron™. The fact that this super-complex event–a Herculean logistical challenge–was perfectly realized is astounding.

    Leading up to the premiere described above, most of the film actually concentrates on the composition, practice and pre-production phases. As the strangely droning music swoops and banks, the camera likewise darts around chaotically, shifting in and out of focus as it bounces from the composer’s hands on the score to the players to the walls and myriad other objects. The only thing that bugs me is the way Stockhausen frequently speaks German and English in the interview segments, and the the cover / booklet photos aren’t even from this event. Other than that, this is a fine documentary that I highly recommend to Stockhausen fans.

    Label: Medici Arts Catalog Number: 3077508 Format: DVD Packaging: Digi-Pak Total Time: 77:00 Country: Germany Released: 2008 More: Amazon, Discogs, Forced Exposure, Naxos Direct, Official, Wikipedia

    Text ©2011 Arcane Candy

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